BRADY TWP. – Angela and Darwin Burtner were caught by surprise when a group of 12 young travelers came paddling down the Allegheny River late Thursday afternoon. The Burtners also responded to an opportunity to help the youths.
“Darwin and I noticed them on the other side of the river, looking at the shoreline,” said Angela.
“Then we noticed them crossing the river, paddling towards our dock. So, we stepped out on the deck and said, ‘Hi fellas.’ The leader quickly explained they are on a wilderness trip and asked if they could set up their camp for the night on the edge of our river bank because the opposing shoreline is very steep.”
The couple watched them quickly make camp and went over to ask some questions. It turned out the two “chiefs” were counselors for ten 15- to 17-year-olds from the Allegany Boys Camp in Oldtown, Md. on an 18-day wilderness trip. They started on the West Branch of the Clarion River and it took them 14 days to navigate the entire Clarion River down to where the Clarion flows into the Allegheny River.
Allegany Boys Camp is a year-round residential wilderness camp for boys age nine to 15 who are struggling in their homes and at school, according to the group’s website.
The Burtners ordered lots of pizzas from Sarah’s Snack Shack and the boys devoured every slice.
“We all chattered non-stop for a couple of hours. Then the fellas sang for us. What a really great evening it was,” said Angela.
The Burtners also explained to them that they would encounter a lock and dam downstream that wouldn’t be open for two more days, and helped the leaders form a plan to safely portage around the lock/dam and hydro plant.
“Chief Brandon rode Darwin’s bicycle 13 miles down the Armstrong Trail in the morning and drove their van and trailer back to our home from Templeton,” said Angela. “Once loaded, we said our goodbyes and sent them on their way with instructions on where to camp Friday night.”
Tal and Sarah Hapenstall allowed the boys to camp on their river bank.
“Later that day, I’m mowing my lawn when I spot one of their T-shirts on the rocks,” said Angela. “Then I saw a tackle box. I’m thinking, hmmmm, I should text Darwin and tell him I think we may need to run these things down river to the boys — after all, if things went as planned, they should be at Tal and Sarah’s by now.
“Then I found one of their fishing poles leaning against a tree. That’s it! Now I know we are going down river and since we would have to drive through Widnoon, why not pick up lots of ice cream and surprise the boys with an ice cream bar of everyone’s favorite toppings?”
The boys were surprised when the Burtners pulled in at the new location and enjoyed their Widnoon ice cream treats.
“Once again, every boy had a story to tell us of their adventures that day. What a terrific group of kids. We left there feeling far more blessed than you can imagine,” said the Burtners.
When they returned home, they also discovered the boys had split and stacked all of the firewood from a tree that had recently fallen. The work was appreciated since Darwin had injured his knee and shoulder from a ladder fall, undergone surgery, and now is doing physical therapy.
“Always keep your eyes open to bless someone that may be floating down the river your way — don’t let it float past, as you really are denying yourself the bigger blessing,” said Darwin.
Angels on the Allegheny were out in force those two days, paying it forward.